Is there such a thing as the Humboldt sound? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. There are a lot of distinct music scenes in the county, some of them intersecting, some discrete. Identifying a common thread is well nigh impossible.
There is, however, something of a Humboldt groove that ties together one big slice of the local music scene. What goes into it? A touch of funk, a little reggae, a taste of hip hop, maybe some stringband jams, definitely a big dollop of rock. You'll find all of the above on a new compilation CD about to drop called The Humboldt Collective.
The album has an unusual origin: It's basically a school project assembled by students attending the Globe Institute of Recording and Production in San Francisco. One of the students, Ajeet Singh Campbell, lived in Humboldt for a few years, played a little music and made some friends on the local scene. When he took a Globe class on the music biz, the final assignment was to create a record label, produce a CD, get the tunes on iTunes and put together a CD release party.
Ajeet and two fellow students came up with a label name: TetraGroove Records. When his classmates threw their hands up with no idea what to do next, Ajeet told them, "I know some people." He called his old friend from Humboldt, Chris Noonan, a sax player who jams with just about every funk outfit in town. Noonan happened to be riding in a car with keyboard whiz Brian Swizlo when he took the call. Swiz is always looking for ways to move the Humboldt scene forward. He saw an opportunity.
"Chris and I figured we could make it part of something we've been dreaming about for years: The Humboldt Collective; something that could bring together and showcase the prominent bands in different genres, hip hop, funk, whatever. That's where it started," said Swiz.
Ajeet ultimately pulled together six Humboldt bands: Absynth Quintet, Bump Foundation, Ishi Dube and Massagana, Moo-Got-2, The Nucleus and Subliminal Sabotage, with two or more tracks from each making up a 15-track disc.
I asked Ajeet the big question: What is the Humboldt sound? "It's so diverse ..." he began, temporarily stuck for an answer. "People up there listen to some many different genes of music, going to see hip hop one day, going to see The Nucleus the next. Do the bands we chose have something in common? In some way it comes down to the groove -- music that makes you want to move.
"But on another level it's almost a religious experience, healing the people one note at a time. For some it's probably the closest they will get to bliss, collective consciousness, and, dare I say, God."
This Saturday, Jan. 24, the TetraGroove crew is throwing their required release party at The Mission Rock Cafe in San Francisco. Three bands from the album -- Ishi Dube, Moo-Got-2 and Sub Sab -- are all heading down to play and perhaps to bring some sort of Humboldt religious experience to those in attendance. There's thought of a local CD party, but nothing solid yet. (Watch this space for details when it comes.)
As far as I know, none of the other bands on the H.C. disc are playing locally, but Absynth guitarist Ryan Roberts will be among those celebrating gypsy jazzman Django Reinhardt's birthday at Libation Friday. He's part of the Tom Toohey Trio, who will be joined by the cleverly named Hot Club Papers and the proverbial "special guests" for the Django-thon.
The endless flow of Portland musicians continues Thursday, Jan. 22, with a show at Aunty Mo's featuring Lovers, a "modern, sexy, often danceable" all-female band from P-land led by songwriter Carolyn Berk. Coming to town with a new disc, I Am The West, they share a bill with those "mermaids from Mars" The Monster Women and gal punks Sick Bitch.
Also from Portland, songstress Raina Rose, a tattooed beauty who may or may not bring along her soon-to-be-released CD, end of endless false starts, when she plays Saturday at Muddy's Hot Cup. She's coming to town with another Portland songwriter: Hunter Paye. In addition to the Muddy thing they'll open for "high altitude bluegrass" jammers Blue Turtle Seduction when that band plays at Humboldt Brews Friday.
HumBrews becomes reggae-central this week: Thursday they have Messenjah Selah and Lady Passion; Tuesday, Jan. 27, it's Bobo David, straight from Sizzla's Judgment Yard compound, plus Jah Shiloh and Red X.
The blues roll on at the Riverwood Friday, this time with Lady Bianca, a swingin' blues/gospel piano player from Oakland.
Are you ready to rock? Elsewhere in SoHum Friday Dave Sky and the metal-heads of MaidenHumboldt join forces with the Mateel to present Winter Rock at the Mateel featuring world-famous all-girl L.A.-based AC/DC cover band Whole Lotta Rosies (not to be confused with Hell's Belles, the awesome world-famous all-girl AC/DC cover band from up north). Opening the show: a new SoHum melodic metal band called International Trash, with special guest Al Davis on vocals.
Incidentally, if you were wondering about MaidenHumboldt's planned Clan Mateel Tartan Dinner, originally scheduled for this weekend to mark Robert Burns' 250th, that's been postponed. There is, however, a Scots gathering in Eureka with bagpipes, Burns' poems, etc. (Read about it in the calendar section.) And if you just want to hear some Celtic-type music, Lief Sorbye and Tempest are back to rock the Blue Lake Casino Friday night.
Humboldt honkytonk heroes Rooster McClintock play the Alibi Saturday night with TheBoredAgain opening the show. Great band name, and thanks to the wonders of the Internets and MySpace, I was able to learn more about them, or rather him, since TBA is actually a one-man band consisting of someone aka Dave-o. He's funny, clever to a fault, and I'm guessing he'll be happy if you hand him a PBR before, during and/or after his set. Just don't try prying the can from his "Cold Dumb Hands."
A couple of notable concerts on the classical front: Friday brings a quintet called Spanish Brass or Luur Metalls to the Arkley Center. These guys have been together for 20 years and are something like the Knonos Quartet of brass music, playing a hip, varied repertoire, commissioning new works, and so on. The program planned for Eureka, presented by the Humboldt Community Concert Association, ranges from Bach and Falla to pieces by Ellington, Jobim and Cuban jazzman Paquito d'Rivera.
The following night, Sunday Jan. 25, brings what's being hailed as the "birth of a wind ensemble" to Fulkerson Recital Hall. "It's something that wind players in Humboldt County have been talking about for 10 years," says Ken Ayoob, director of the nascent North Coast Wind Ensemble, a collection of 33 local instrumentalists. Their debut program includes Percy Grainger's "Lincolnshire Posy," contemporary composer Frank Ticheli's "Blue Shades," a suite drawn from George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" and other windy pieces.
Looking for "freaky bass exposure and dubstep beats"? Transparents Productions and Limitless Unlimited present Pressure Drop Saturday night at Empire Squared featuring Roommate and The Antiserum up from San Fran, plus DJ Jrunq, Psy Fi, Cadence, Subaddiction and Mike D. -- no, not Dronkers -- with visuals by Rhett Brice and live art in action by the E-2 folks. Note: The party starts early and presumably ends early, which means you could bounce from there to the Jambalaya where Dub Cowboy and co. will be laying down more dubstep for the weekly mission:CRITICAL.
Speaking of critical missions, isn't that what Obama was talking about in the big i-speech? Are you ready to choose "hope over fear" and pull together to set things back on track? I'm there, down with O. How about you?